I did not want to miss the viewing of Our Life is Like Our Breath, yesterday at IMC. And I was not disappointed. We were treated to a peak into the life of the monks at the international forest monastery, Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand, and also the presence of Ajahn Gunavuddho, a theravadan monk.
I asked myself, could I live in the monastery depicted in the movie, and the answer was, probably not. They don't welcome women anyway . . .
I also came away with a temporary calmness, a joy, as is always the case after being in the presence of those whose quasi-emptiness come through. It gave me hope, particularly during this phase of my journey, when the pain from the hindrances is making itself felt so strongly. I have this image of a house needing to be cleaned. Sweeping, vacuuming don't take too much effort at first, but then, very quickly the grime underneath the surface dust gets exposed, and one has no choice but working at it patiently to finish the job. Un travail de longue haleine, as we say in French . . . Requiring patience, self-compassion, determination, and faith. This is why the monks play such an important role, as holders of the possibility within. Yes, the big chunks of caked up dirt can fall off eventually, making it possible for the natural calmness to be felt. Yes, there is no need getting too caught up in one's thoughts. Yes, practice is worth all the effort. Yes, it is possible to free the mind from its own trappings. Yes, unconditioned happiness is attainable.
Having tasted sa degree of peace early on, which came from the simple practice of present-moment awareness, I took up intensive Zen training. But I soon found that this peace was elusive, as I encountered deep guilt, insecurity and suffering. I was shocked at how self-centered I was and how painful that self-centeredness could be. Because the only practice I knew was to be mindfully present, I spent a lot of time, both in formal practice and in my daily life, trying to have a settled presence with my suffering. Years later, I realized that in doing this I was slowly being "compassioned". My resistances and defenses gradually relaxed, and in their place grew tenderness and kindness. It was a process that seemed to soften a crust around my heart.
~Gil Fronsdal, The Bodhisattva & the Arhat, Fall 2011, Inquiring Mind~
It has taken years for the crust to form. And it will take time, mindfulness, and loving kindness to release it.
Meanwhile, I shall rejoice in the company of the monks and nuns whenever the opportunity arises. Getting a glimpse . . .